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J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2007 Dec;46(12):1651-9.

Adverse life events and psychopathology and prosocial behavior in late adolescence: testing the timing, specificity, accumulation, gradient, and moderation of contextual risk.

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  • 1School of Psychology and Human Development, Institute of Education, University of London, London WC1H 0AA, UK. e.flouri@ioe.ac.uk

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To explore the timing, specificity, accumulation, gradient, and moderation of contextual risk in psychopathology and prosocial behavior in late adolescence.

METHOD:

In 2006, three hundred eighty-one 16- to 18-year-olds in Britain reported on the number and type of adverse life events experienced in the past month, when they were age 15, and when they were age 10, and on their concurrent psychopathology and prosocial behavior. They also undertook a reasoning ability test. Control variables were sex, age, and mothers' and fathers' educational attainment when participants were age 10 years.

RESULTS:

Although the number of adverse life events irrespective of their timing was associated with emotional and behavioral problems, the number of proximal adverse life events experienced was associated with psychopathology over and above the association of contextual risk in late childhood and in middle adolescence with psychopathology. The cumulative risk model was more parsimonious than the specific risk model. The relationship between proximal cumulative adversity and psychopathology was monotonic, and reasoning ability buffered the association of proximal cumulative adversity with psychopathology, mainly because it moderated the association of proximal cumulative adversity with hyperactivity.

CONCLUSIONS:

This study highlighted the importance of exploring risk accumulation rather than specificity in explaining psychopathology and showed that the number of adverse life events experienced has a nonmultiplicative association with psychopathology.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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